Boys On The Beach
Just saw “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” and somehow was reminded of something I meant to write about a few months ago: Transversus Abdominis.
No, this is not one of the cloned creatures featured in Spielberg’s latest special effects-fest. Transversus Abdominis is but one — and probably the least known — of the four muscles that constitute the group known collectively as the Abdominals. (The other three are the External and Internal Obliques, and the Rectus Abdominis.) While T. Abd., as the deepest of the abdominal muscles, garners the least attention since it can’t be seen like the Rectus (the “washboard” down the front) or the External Oblique (the “cut” group along the sides below the ribcage), for at least two reasons it actually is the most important of the four to the runner.
First off, T. Abd. provides stability to the spine and internal organs. This muscle, which wraps around from back to front horizontally, functions as the “girdle” of the abdominal group. When contracted, it depresses the ribcage and compresses the abdomen, securing its contents against the jarring forces encountered when running. (In fact, some believe a strong T. Abd. is the key to avoiding those annoying side stitches!) More important is the muscle’s contribution to stabilizing the lower spine and pelvis, which as we have seen in past installments is crucial in preventing injuries to that area as well as increasing overall mechanical efficiency during running.
The second reason runners may find a strong T.Abd muscle to be important has more to do with cosmetic, as opposed to functional, considerations. Somehow, despite the fact that the vast majority of runners qualify as bonafide ectomorphs (i.e., skinny people), I am too often asked by some “How can I get rid of this potbelly/gut/fluffy-ness, etc.?” While sit-ups, crunches (Rectus abd.) and twists (obliques) can help, the true hero of the flat-belly look is the Transversus Abdominis. The question is, How to isolate and work that particular muscle. The answer, fortunately, is simple.
The easiest way to exercise T. Abd. is to simply pull your stomach inward as far as you can, hold for 10 seconds and repeat 10 times. I usually instruct patients to “try to get your belly button out your back without lifting your chest up.”
This usually works, but if it doesn’t, I explain that I want them to pretend they are a male (most likely middle aged, although it doesn’t really matter — in this case we’re talking all boys anyway) walking shirtless on a beach in Rio or Marseilles or even Green Lakes, filled with attractive young women. For some reason, everyone (women included) seems to be able to do the exercise exactly right at that point!
The best part is that this exercise can be done anywhere, anytime, standing, laying down, even sitting. Within a few weeks, you should notice a difference in your sideview appearance, as well as a definite sensation of strength in the abdominal area that can only be beneficial to your running.